The Sears Catalog

Sears department store exterior

Sears has been dying for some time, and after its recent filing for bankruptcy, it’s self-evident: the former retail giant will be as dead as a doornail.

Many folks of my generation remember the Sears catalog, especially the Christmas Wishbook edition. In fact, Sears began as a mail order outfit only, appealing to a mostly rural America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Those isolated on homesteads could order items from a catalog; imagine the thrill of a package arriving in those days!
 

Sears Christmas Wishbook, 1964

As Americans became more citified and then suburban, Sears built department stores, and then became the main anchor in shopping malls. Now Americans with their ubiquitous automobiles could now travel to a consumer’s mecca and buy appliances for their newer homes designed to accommodate washing machines, refrigerators, and television sets.
 

Sears department store opening advertisement

Yet the catalog remained, and one of my memories as a young gayling was that catalog, and it wasn’t because of the underwear models (that dynamic arrived later). No, it was because of the home décor. I was fascinated with the living room sets Sears sold in the catalog, especially the French provincial and Early American lines. (No, I exhibited no intention at that age, even subconsciously, of becoming the clichéd gay decorator.)
 

Sears furniture in catalog, 1970s

Confined to mostly interior activities because of lack of athletic skills, I would cut up older catalogs and create my own rooms. I remember a sofa with a brown slipcover that featured prominently in my fantasy rooms, next to a ginger jar lamp. I guess I may have been going for a more lower middle class look than I had intended (think Roseanne, definitely taking place in a Sears household), but home for me equals comfort, sinking into a cushy sofa in a room softly illuminated by lamplight.
 

Ginger jar lamps

When puberty hit, I was drawn to the catalogs for another reason: the macho mustached guys wearing plaid shirts, Levis, and boots. That was the style of the time, and Sears sold “gay macho” wear because its customers were actual construction workers or even cowboys. I really like the pictures of guys posing in tight jeans and boots with clunky heels. And they were usually posing together, as clothing was sold in the catalogs based on gender. Yet the groups of good-looking, well-built guys hanging out together could produce a definite homoerotic vibe. For example, I remember one ad featuring guys leaning against a fence, that pose drawing the eye to the bulge in the jeans. I cut it out and pasted into a secret notebook.
 

Sears catalog cowboys

There’s more going on than just nostalgia for an American icon. I do find it brutally ironic that the supposed “making American great again” does not include the return of Sears, in so many ways a symbol of a time when a strong, blue-collar (and mostly white) middle class made good. But their descendants now shop at Walmart and/or Amazon, or, in some of the areas that suffered the most economically, dollar stores.

And the new generation of gaylings don’t have to stealthily cut up Sears catalogs to express forbidden fantasies. They can use phone apps, but most significantly, they don’t have to hide their artistic and sexual interests in a world where girls were girls and men were men. Yet I still feel like the effort involved in cutting up those catalogs stimulated creativity. I had to work for my fun. And part of the fun was the work involved in attaining it.
 

Sears catalog '70s fashion
Rate this blog entry:
1976 Hits
0 Comments

Great Non-Sex Moments in Classic Gay Porn Films

by guest blogger Miriam Webster

Sex scenes are, as one would expect, almost always the focus of porn films, but – especially in the the heyday of story porn and artistic/experimental porn, the 1970s, when many porn films truly were films – there were a large number of notably interesting non-sex scenes present in what was being produced. Sometimes these sequences were lead-ins to sex scenes. Sometimes they served to advance the film's narrative, or flesh out a character or an interpersonal dynamic, or talk about gay life and relationships and communities of the era. Sometimes they are notable because they capture something that is historically interesting. Following are several examples from the Bijou collection.
 

The Night Before (Arch Brown, 1973): Lady in Red / Dance Scene

Main character Hank (Coke Hennessy) goes for a stroll with a package he picked up on his way to deliver it to its recipient, the man with whom he recently got involved. In the park, he sees a woman wearing all red dancing and The Lady in Red suddenly comes on. He joins her in dancing for a brief, goofy moment. He then sits on a park bench and unwraps the package. Inside is a large print-out of a cover of The Advocate featuring a photo of two men taken by his lover. As Hank studies this photo, it comes to life and we see the men (Tim Clarke and Jeffrey Etting) perform a gorgeously choreographed nude dance number set to an operatic David Earnest score.
 

The Night Before images

 

Casey (Donald Crane, 1971): Casey talks to his fairy godmother

In several sequences from Casey Donovan's first film (shot before but released after The Boys in the Sand), Casey speaks to his fairy godmother, Wanda Uptight (also played by Donovan, in drag), who has appeared in the mirror to give him some harsh, but insightful advice on his habits and love life (or lack thereof). Wanda first appears after Casey wakes up by jerking off in bed unsatisfactorily, then sings to himself in the bathroom as he washes down a series of vitamins with a swig of Southern Comfort, lights a joint, stares hard at his reflection, and shouts “Faggot!” at himself. Wanda appears over his reflection, startling him, and she dishes out some tough love, chewing him out for not taking care of himself, chasing cock constantly, and not knowing what he really wants. Their very clever dialogue, expertly delivered by Donovan, is both funny and incisive, representing Casey's internal conflict around love, sex, and self-acceptance. (“Anybody who can wash down raw liver substance and vitamin B complex with Southern Comfort is depraved!” “Three nights a week in a Turkish Bath! You'll dehydrate yourself!” “No one digs anyone. It doesn't matter if it's number one or two thousand and two – where does it lead?”)
 

Casey images

 

Adam and Yves (Peter de Rome, 1974): The final film appearance of Greta Garbo

An American man, Adam (Michael Hardwick), and a French man, Yves (Marcus Giovanni), play mysterious sexual mind games throughout their brief, but intense, Parisian love affair, including the rule, enforced by Yves, that they may never know each other's names. The sights of Paris are a fascinating backdrop, but the most surprising and historically notable moment in the film comes when Adam recounts an incredible time when he saw Greta Garbo from the window of his apartment. Director Peter de Rome accompanies this story with the actual last-known footage of Garbo, herself, shot from his own window on super 8 film.
 

Adam and Yves images of Greta Garbo

Garbo in Adam and Yves

 

Ballet Down the Highway (Jack Deveau, 1975): Sloppy strip tease

Closeted truck driver, Joe (Garry Hunt), falls hard for ballet star Ivan (Henk Van Dijk) early in their ill-fated affair, but is intimidated by Ivan's talent, fame, wealth, and gorgeous physique. Ivan belongs to a world where he can comfortably be out and Joe does not. Ivan lives in an expensive apartment and gets fancy Dutch music boxes delivered to his vacation home; Joe gets drunk in a blue collar bar in the rumpled suit he wore to go see Ivan perform in the ballet (which he was too proud to let Ivan get him into for free) and is heckled for being gay by his buddies. Totally wasted after a night at the bar, Joe calls Ivan, who is irritated with him, then shows up to Ivan's apartment anyway. He changes Ivan's radio from a classical station to something faster with saxophone, saying he wants to dance, groping Ivan, and complimenting his beautiful body. Ivan pushes him away and Joe, hurt, mocks Ivan as insists he is a good dancer, too, and proceeds to do a drunken, sloppy strip tease in Ivan's living room, dropping pieces of his suit on the floor, smirking, sniffing his own sock, and finally pretending to drink out of his shoe while sprawled across Ivan's floor. All the while, Ivan ignores Joe and plays solitaire.
 

Ballet Down the Highway images

 

L.A. Tool & Die (Joe Gage, 1979): Fight scene, Vietnam flashback, work/getting to know you montages

Joe Gage's L.A. Tool & Die is full of strong character-building sequences. Early on, we see the hero, Hank (played by Richard Locke), hanging out in a gay bar and trying to cruise a handsome stranger (Wylie, played by Will Seagers). In the bathroom, Hank runs into a homophobic man who works for the bar owner. The man calls Hank a cocksucker, to which Hank grins and calmly responds, “You'd better believe it. The only thing I like better than sucking cock is kicking ass.” He tosses the man out of the bathroom and roughs him up a bit. The man, no match for Locke, runs away as Locke smirks, having not even gotten worked up or broken a sweat.

In a later scene, Wylie is taking a break from his cross-country drive to walk along the beach at sunset. In a close up, we see that he's crying. Gage cuts to a flashback of a younger Wylie in Vietnam, holding his dying lover in the battle field. His lover tells Wylie that he doesn't think he's going to make it and that he must promise not to forget him, but also to love somebody else some day.

Near the end of the film, Hank and Wylie reunite when they both get jobs at L.A. Tool & Die. Hank learned that Wylie was traveling there for work and decided to do the same. Two beautifully-cut montages and a dialogue sequence show the two men getting to know each other while working and taking breaks together. Wylie appreciates Hank being patient with him; he has been reluctant to get involved with anyone, but is clearly warming up to Hank. Throughout the film, Locke imbues Hank with an easy, warm sort of charm and a sexy, confident swagger and Seagers gives Wylie both a sweet, shy vulnerability and a quiet strength. The two men have enormous chemistry and the actors and characters compliment each other well, their connection and relationship feeling believable.
 

L.A. Tool & Die images

 

Wanted: Billy the Kid (Jack Deveau, 1976): I'll Be Your Mirror

New Yorker Billy (Dennis Walsh) is an unsuccessful actor and quite successful hustler. Between memorizing lines and gossiping with his friend (Megan Ross), seeing tricks, and exercising, Billy takes a quiet break to smoke a joint and listen to a song. It's a slow, folky original composition (“I'll Be Your Mirror” - lyrics by the film's writer, Moose 100, and music by Hand in Hand Films composer David Earnest) and the camera is fixed on Billy throughout its duration, as he sits, contemplative, smoking, listening, and occasionally mouthing along to the lyrics. He is broken out of his reverie by a phone call from a regular, and they swap some elegant dirty talk.
 

Wanted: Billy the Kid images

 

Confessions of a Male Groupie (Tom DeSimone, 1971): Party scene

This early Tom DeSimone film is possibly the ultimate hippie porn, focusing on a community of friends in Hollywood and their love of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Barely a sex film and more of a portrait of the era, the movie soaks up the atmosphere of the time and place as The Groupie (Larry Danser) moves to the area from a small town, becomes best friends with party girl Sweet Lady Mary (Myona Phetish), and cruises the members of a rock band (The Electric Banana). The climax of the film is a wild party sequence starring a large number of friends and acquaintances of DeSimone's. The attendees – all genders covered in glitter and sequins – laugh, smoke joints, swing on an indoor swing set, playfully horse around and wrestle, cuddle, embrace each other, and dance. The crowd includes a trans couple who were the subjects of two Penelope Spheeris short documentary films (I Don't Know and Hats Off to Hollywood).
 

Confessions of a Male Groupie images
Jennifer and Dana in Spheeris' Hats Off to Hollywood

Even with its surprising turn into a cautionary anti-drug film (after the wild hedonism of the rest of its run time), Confessions of a Male Groupie – and this sequence in particular – is a fascinating document of a real community of queer friends and lovers in the early '70s.
 

Confessions of a Male Groupie images

 

You can find all of these movies (except for L.A. Tool & Die, though some scenes from it are available in our compilation, The Best of Richard Locke) on DVD at BijouWorld.com and streaming at BijouGayPorn.com.

Rate this blog entry:
3959 Hits
0 Comments

Blue Collar

Ed Wiley in Rough Trades
Ed Wiley (aka Myles Longue) in Jack Deveau's Rough Trades

When I was younger, much younger, I slept with a guy who one could safely say was blue collar. He worked at various constructions jobs (mostly unskilled). He was hot (muscles, beard, deep voice, big hands) and he was gay, and he was kinky. What more could one ask for? In fact, at a gathering I held when I was sleeping with him off and on, a cultured friend of mine who sold suits to mostly white collar executives met him. He blurted out to me, “You slept with him! Can I touch you?” He meant it jokingly, but I think much was implied in his reaction, much about class, education, sexual orientation, and how that all ties into how we view what is masculine.
 

Hot Truckin' before/after color correction images from upcoming restoration
Before/after color correction from Bijou's NEW restoration of Tom DeSimone's Hot Truckin' starring Gordon Grant and Nick Rodgers as truck drivers

Where does the term blue collar even come from?
 

Hot trucker

The term blue collar was first used in reference to trades jobs in 1924, in an Alden, Iowa newspaper. The phrase stems from the image of manual workers wearing blue denim or chambray shirts as part of their uniforms.
 

1930s men's work uniforms

Some blue collar workers have uniforms with the name of the business and/or the individual's name embroidered or printed on it.

Historically the popularity of the color blue among manual laborers contrasts with the popularity of white dress shirts worn by people in office environments.

The blue collar/white collar color scheme has socioeconomic connotations, which comes from the British class system, especially as it transmuted because of the Industrial Revolution.

The people who worked in factories were called the working class, and they varied in degrees of respectability, ranging from the skilled laborers who could afford a small house and raise a church-going family (think Archie Bunker types), to unskilled day laborers at the bottom of the social ladder.

These individuals, because of their lack of education, were stereotyped as coarse and ill-mannered, but also as physically strong and big-hearted; perhaps Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners exemplifies the best and the worst of this image.
 

Ralph Kramden
Ralph Kramden

The people who ran the factories and eventually created the big corporations of the Gilded Age and beyond, combined with the older, genteel professions of teachers and doctors, became the white collar middle and upper middle classes, and at the top of that ladder, the nouveau riche.

This structure pretty much held for a long time in the United States, but once factory jobs moved to China and other places because of globalization, a new working class replaced it, working lower paid service and retail jobs jobs, and also in office jobs, ostensibly white collar, but working mostly as servants to upper middle class and upper class high level professionals like lawyers and corporate executives.
 

Robert Rikas in American Cream
Robert Rikas as a power-hungry white collar executive degrading his employee in the brilliant and satircal 1972 gay porn classic, American Cream

Now, how do gay men fit into this social picture? The stereotype of gay men is definitely not the “rough” guy who works with his hands, but the effeminate artsy-fartsy queen who thrives in refined cultural environments, the “sissy.” If you weren't out in that way and consigning yourself to stereotypical gay professions like acting and hairdressing, you conformed to the social structure above, and if you were in the working class, you definitely didn't proclaim your sexual orientation.
 

Henk Van Dijk and Garry Hunt as a ballet dancer and a trucker in Ballet Down the Highway
A ballet dancer (Henk Van Dijk) & a closeted truck driver (Garry Hunt) having an affair in Jack Deveau's 1976 film, Ballet Down the Highway

Thus, in the book Maurice, the aristocrat Maurice is really taking a risk by loving Alec Scudder, a gamekeeper, much below him in social class.

So, what was a gay construction worker or trucker to do?

Hide their true selves, it seems. But note, so many gay porn fantasies involve these blue collar guys in places like truck stops and construction sites, but how much are they the projected fantasies of white collar gay guys who fetishize the conventional masculinity of these straight guys?
 

Vintage ads for Grease Monkeys and Hardhat
Hard working mechanics and construction workers in the vintage Jaguar releases, Grease Monkeys and Hardhat

Tellingly, we saw this projection become dominant very soon after the initial liberation of Stonewall, when the gay clone look involved construction boots, denim, and keys hanging from belts.
 

Richard Locke in Cruisin' the Castro
Richard Locke, the ultimate blue collar man of '70s gay porn, in Cruisin' the Castro

And of course, one of the Village People guys was a construction worker.
 

Village People construction worker

Thus, in my case, it was almost a status symbol that I really slept with a real blue collar guy (I also slept with a fireman).

Neither relationship worked out, and it wasn't because of the social gap.

Yet, since the 1990s, when those relationships occurred, some social distinctions have blurred, but not all. Even in the increasingly mainstream LGBTQ community, upper middle class wealthy white educated males have wielded the most power and influence, ostensibly for the good of all in a diverse community, but the dynamic mirrors the class structure of the society as a whole.

The Veda Pierces (the snobbish daughter of Mildred Pierce) who looked down upon dollar days and men who wear uniforms (today what many retail employees have to wear) still exist, but they come from all social classes as the world of cyberspace creates a level playing field for everyone.
 

Veda Pierce
Veda Pierce

Yet, the world of Twitter can create identities that don't correspond with one's real life social status, and thus the opposite of the above can occur: an Amazon delivery person can show more class and education and insight than a nouveau riche person, the most powerful man in the world, who embodies the worst stereotypes of the blue collar worker every time he tweets.

Rate this blog entry:
5348 Hits
0 Comments

Chicago LGBTQ Pride Parade 2016: Subdued but Controversial

 

The lowdown from the Chicago Gay Pride Parade this year was “subdued” but “still colorful” or “festive” but “respectful.” 

The subdued and respectful adjectives fit, because the LGBTQ community is in mourning because of the horrific events at Orlando, and in tandem with many pride parades around the globe, the victims were honored. In Chicago, the first entry was a memorial to the victims, with participants holding photos of them. A woman standing next to me wept. 
 

Orlando tribute at Chicago Pride Parade


After this profoundly moving start, the action began to pick up a bit, but I noticed less people standing by the beginning of the parade (where my friend and I were hanging about). It seemed at times the people marching and on floats had to do more to get the crowds cheering. As usual, PFLAG and the schools elicited enthusiastic cheers. 

I did find it rather unfortunate that the Chicago PrimeTimers (a gay male senior citizens club), which entry consisted of three elders holding a banner, was followed immediately by a bevy of young hot gay hockey players. At least the PrimeTimers got a mention on the special ABC local news coverage! 

This juxtaposition of older and younger might be interpreted as a show of unity in diversity, and several parade organizers claimed that the mood this year, rather than jubilation over marriage equality for all, was respect and unity. Everyone was showing unity based on a broader definition of love in the face of hate. 

Yet here's the rub. Something controversial happened in Chicago that shows we have a long way to go to remedy serious structural social and economic inequalities in the LGBTQ community, in many ways a microcosm of our society as a whole. An event called Pride at Montrose was abruptly cancelled by the police. The reason was ostensibly the height of a security fence. 
 

Pride at Montrose


Note that this event is sponsored by the Chicago Gay Black Men's Caucus, which in the past had used this event to perform valuable health services, (now in danger because of the state budget problems in Illinois), such as HIV testing, and this year, an emphasis on Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). 

Last year #BlackLivesMatter performed a die-in at the parade. 

See the connection here? It's pretty much a stereotype that many of the advances in the gay rights movement were often orchestrated by white men with power and money (and still are). The thrust to be able to join the army and get married could be interpreted as even conservative, as the army and marriage are traditional structures. In other words, was the goal really assimilation, thus marginalizing groups the large society also marginalizes? 
 

Wealthy gay married couple with a baby


The victims of Orlando were mostly young Latinx persons, many struggling to make ends meet in low-paying service jobs. Some were still going to school, mostly community colleges. I doubt any of them would be considered “upper middle class” or even “middle class.” They wouldn't be living in expensive condos (built because greedy developers force out the working class families in those area), walking designer dogs, or attending fancy benefits in beaded gowns (like many of the gay men in the area I live in, I must say). 

Marriage equality is beautiful, but how many persons on the lower end of the income scale can even afford to reap the economic benefits of marriage? And let's not forget that many lesbians, because women still make less money to the dollar than men, are struggling to maintain lives of dignity and peace because their earning power is reduced. And, shamefully, the poverty rate among transgender individuals is quite high as well. 
 

Housing is a Queer Issue - facts about housing in the LGBT community


If we are to really show unity, I think we need to start seriously addressing the fundamental inequities in the LGBTQ community that reflect those present in the society as a whole. We ask others not to judge us because of who we are; let's stop judging others based on income, appearance, age, or even personality. I'm hoping the younger members of our community, many of whom stand the most to lose in an dismal economic future (perhaps why many of them voted for Bernie Sanders), can prove to be an example of unity in diversity for their elders. 
 

Bernie with young people supporters

 

 
Rate this blog entry:
1837 Hits
0 Comments

A Ship Rolls Over, A Fun Candy Factory Worker, and Ghosts: Madame Bubby's Secret Family History

 

I always wondered what the phrase “skeletons in the closet” really meant. I found out it was coined in England in the 19th century. Since then the word “closet” has become used primarily in England to mean “water closet” that is, lavatory - a possible hiding place for a skeleton I guess, but not one with much potential! 

Now, lest you think my secret is about some shameful sexual peccadillo (which, given I work for a porn site, really wouldn't be much of secret anyway), it isn't. There is a secret, in a sense here, because how most people don't know about the drowning of 800 people on the Eastland, one of the deadliest maritime disasters in United States history. 
 

Eastland Disaster postcard

Why? The story itself can't compete with all the hype about the Titanic, as the lives of the rich and famous supposedly make better copy. The people who drowned on the Eastland could be your neighbors or employees, the people who pick up your garbage, make your light bulbs, or mop the floors at night in office buildings. And one of these people was my grandfather's sister. 

On Saturday, July 24, 1915, the employees of Hawthorne Works, Western Electric in Cicero, Illinois, and their families and friends, boarded the S.S. Eastland in downtown Chicago, for the annual company picnic.

 

Every year Western Electric, at that time one of the largest manufacturers of electrical engineering equipment, including telephones, hosted a massive celebration involving a boat ride to Michigan City, Indiana, and, once there, a picnic, a parade, and related festivities.

 

These hardworking people didn't possess the means to take vacations. For many of them, Bohemian, Polish, German, Italian, and Irish immigrants, this was the only time they ever left the neighborhoods where they lived and worked. 

According to the Jay Bonansinga in The Sinking of the Eastland, the Eastland had already experienced some problems with balance or “listing,” and the replacement of the original deck flooring with concrete added problematic extra weight. The excited picnicgoers boarded, all 2,572 of them, to the point where the boat was at full capacity.

 

At 7:28 a.m., the Eastland, still moored to her Chicago River dock, began to list to one side. Attempts to stabilize the boat failed. With one sickening, swift inexorable movement, the boat rolled onto one side: 

Eastland Rolled Over


“The noise shook the riverfront: the chorus of screams ringing out along the dock, the pitiful splashing of those who had been tossed from the deck into the water, and the frantic rush of the quicker-thinking onlookers. It was though a vast bucketful of people—helpless babies included—had been emptied into the water...Even skilled swimmers had a hard time of it.” 

In 1915, the heavy layers of clothes these women wore (they were all dolled up in their Sunday finery) especially did not help matters. Many people at that time did not know how to swim. Even though this was the case in some instances, many of the victims did not actually drown, but actually suffocated, not because of the clothing, but from the weight of the bodies falling on top of each other and from debris. 

Even more disturbing, according to Bonansinga's account, chivalry died that day. Men pushed drowning women out of the way. The women, however, often sacrificed their lives so their children might live.  

 

Bonansinga's account tells of one woman who managed to place her baby on a crate, blew it a kiss, and succumbed to the filthy, poisonous waters of the Chicago River. 


There so many bodies that they had to lay them out in Marshall Field's. 

As I mentioned above, my grandfather's sister, one Katarzyna Grochowska, drowned that day. With the assistance of the Internet, I found her record on the passenger list. What was really interesting is that she did not even work for Western Electric. She worked for a candy factory. I would guess she was attending the big event with one of her friends.

 

And based on what I garnered from the limited oral history of our family and from a couple of websites, she was seventeen and extremely outgoing and popular, and had not one but two nicknames, Kat and Kitty—her death remains truly heartbreaking. 

As I noted above, despite the tremendous loss of life (neighborhoods in Cicero were devastated as whole families literally disappeared), the event still remains strangely tied to its local, working class origins. Some national publicity occurred when the employees of Harpo Studios of Oprah fame, formerly the site of the Second Regiment Armory which served as a temporary morgue for the victims, reported hearing moans, seeing women dressed in their 1915 Edwardian finery, and smelling their flowers and perfume. 
 

Oprah Show Is Haunted Enquirer Article

The Eastland was finally scrapped in 1947 after being used for some time as a training vessel for the U.S. Navy. The Hawthorne Works Western Electric plant closed in 1983.

 

A new wave of immigrants from Latin America now live and pursue the American dream in the bungalows of Cicero, doing much of the same types of work their predecessors did. 
 

Western Electric Factory

 

For more information on this event, check out the Eastland Disaster Historical Society website.

Rate this blog entry:
6920 Hits
0 Comments

Contact Us | 800-932-7111 | Join our email list

Go to top